AspenTech going mainstream

Washington, DC— More than 2,000 of Aspen Technology Inc.'s (Cambridge, MA) customers, representing 600 companies from 48 countries, gathered here at AspenWorld 2002 on Oct. 28-Nov. 1 to learn about AspenTech's product direction plans and to share their experiences using its products in their own plants.

By Control Engineering Staff November 4, 2002

Washington, DC- More than 2,000 of Aspen Technology Inc. ‘s (Cambridge, MA) customers, representing 600 companies from 48 countries, gathered here at AspenWorld 2002 on Oct. 28-Nov. 1 to learn about AspenTech’s product direction plans and to share their experiences using its products in their own plants.

In his opening remarks, AspenTech’s founder and chairman, Larry Evans, explained that, since its beginning’s in 1981, AspenTech has worked hand-in-hand with “early technology adopter” companies, such as BP and GlaxoSmithKline, to improve business profitability. “However, huge business profit improvements are waiting to be captured in `mainstream’ processing companies, something in the range of $300-500 million annually,” says Mr. Evans.

Mr. Evans explained the elements needed to move advanced control and optimization into the mainstream include:

Reviewing and changing business processes where necessary;

Ensuring that business needs “pull” technology into the right place at the right time;

Embracing the diversity of other cultures and ideas; Using models at all levels of the organization to enhance business decision making;

Wisely applying Internet and wireless technologies to place the right information in the hands of the right persons at the right time; and

Increasing the use of real-time sensors to keep business models “fresh.”

AspenTech’s strategy for achieving mainstream business improvements is called Enterprise Op-erations Management (EOM) solutions. EOM solutions are integrated, enterprise-wide systems designed to enable process companies to maximize return on capital employed and increase operating margins. EOM solutions are built on key technologies of modeling, control, optimization, and information management, and provide companies with the capabilities to optimize their core engineering and manufacturing/supply chain business processes.

In an exclusive interview with Control Engineering , David McQuillin, AspenTech’s newly appointed president and ceo, explained that small and mid-sized companies couldn’t afford to be on the leading, bleeding edge of technology. Also some really large companies, such as Dow Chemical, aren’t known as “early technology adopters.” However, these companies pay close attention to what early adopter companies are doing. They quickly learn what works and what doesn’t.

“Once a technology begins yielding sustainable benefits to early adopters, mainstream companies either get on board or watch already thin margins become even thinner. Many of the technologies AspenTech developed in cooperation with early adopters are now ready for use in mainstream processes,” explains Mr. McQuillin.

Mr. McQuillin’s point about waiting until the “blood is off the sword” was demonstrated when Arnold Allemang, Dow’s executive vp of process automation, addressed the AspenWorld 2002 audience. Mr. Allemang explained that, in the 1990s, Dow focused on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to improve its commercial information systems. “Now and in the near future, Dow is actively engaged in applying Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) to achieve two major goals. First, MES will help Dow ensure its ERP information systems are updated in real-time in order to optimize its supply chain. Second, MES will help Dow expose the sources of waste it believes exist in what we call the `hidden factory.’ “

One area Dow Chemical is well recognized in is its development and enforced use of common control system design and implementation tools. [To learn more about Dow’s philosophy in this area, read “One Controller, Many Uses,” CE , Sept. ’02, p. 24]

Working in concert, Dow, AspenTech and Intergraph (Huntsville, AL) have developed “The En-gineering Framework” (TEF). TEF makes use of XML (eXtensible Markup Language) schemas to allow different applications to easily share data, manage workflow, enforce change management, provide audit trail, and electronically manage documents throughout the process lifecycle. [ Control Engi neering will cover the management of engineering documentation in more depth in its Sept.’03 issue.]

Owens Corning recognized In a special presentation at AspenWorld 2002, Owens Corning was honored with the first Aspen Tech Customer Innovation Award. The award recognized Owens Corning’s application of As-penTech solutions to solve difficult manufacturing problems to reduce variability and increase profitability in the areas of melting, fiberizing, oven drying, and curing of glass fiber insulation. [ Control Engineering explained how Owens Corning was applying AspenTech’s soft sensors in its article, “Merging Mom’s Perceptive Power with Technology Creates Startling Results,” CE , April’01, p. 42.]

Accomplishments that Owens Corning achieved using AspenTech technologies include:

Six Sigma level of performance in all key process metrics

40-60% decrease in gross manufacturing variability

Measurable improvement in average process efficiencies

Increased employee productivity

Direct cost savings in raw material, energy, and waste reduction.

Control Engineering Daily News DeskDave Harrold, senior